Sharks' Hamlin-Uele almost quit NRL

Braden Hamlin-Uele says he's a different person after overcoming some doubts about his future.
Braden Hamlin-Uele says he's a different person after overcoming some doubts about his future.

New Zealand prop Braden Hamlin-Uele has revealed he almost quit the NRL 16 months ago but has the likes of Andrew Fifita to thank for salvaging his career.

Hamlin-Uele enjoyed a breakout season for Cronulla last year, going from battling reserve grader to Kiwis forward in the space of six months.

But it came after a summer break at home in Auckland where he seriously considered not boarding his return flight to Australia.

In trouble at the Sharks after an infamous sailing club punch-up that saw the club banned from the venue, Hamlin-Uele questioned whether there was any value in coming back.

The previous year, he'd managed just one game for North Queensland, having been one of their best in under-20s.

"I was pretty close (to giving it away)," he told AAP.

"All that was in my head and I wasn't in the best shape.

"I was just like, 'This is piling up here. I'm never going to get a chance now'.

"I was coming into the end of my contract. I was like, 'I've done nothing yet. Why is it taking so long to do something?'"

Enter Fifita.

With the Sharks between coaches following Shane Flanagan's suspension, Hamlin-Uele fielded calls from his eventual John Morris convincing him to come back.

He also sought support from his family, who warned him he might regret not taking his opportunity.

But it was the messages from teammates that stood out, especially Fifita's given the off-field battles he'd faced in the past.

"It was more the talk with the boys. Fifita had been through some stuff and he knows what it's like," Hamlin-Uele said.

"They just told me to stick strong and to come back and do a job for us.

"Then something just clicked and I was like, 'This is what I want to do. Don't waste this opportunity and take it seriously'."

And he has.

The 25-year-old has developed into one of Cronulla's most destructive middles and has hopes of starting.

He was rewarded with a three-year contract extension last June after knocking back interest from the Warriors, before making his Kiwi debut against Australia in October.

"I'm a different person now," he said.

"I'm a lot more mature and a lot more professional with it all."

Australian Associated Press